Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History

Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History

Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History

Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History


The Beautiful Charmer, the Outdoors Pal, the Winged Angel, the Amazon Queen: these diverse images of women were ubiquitous presences in turn-of-the-century American life to be seen on billboards and theater posters, in society portraits, amateur tableaux, and cemetery art. All these images were evolving toward the forceful image of the New Woman which brought pleasure to those who desired the advancement of women's rights and anxiety to others who feared the displacement of the True Woman. Using more than 500 illustrations, Martha Banta examines the ways women were being looked at in the United States during the volatile age spanning the Centennial years of the 1870s and the close of World War I. See also NX652 in R&R v.2, no.1 (Idols of perversity. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


Imaging . The making of visual and verbal representations (by sculptors, painters, illustrators, writers, advertisers, theater people, journalists) and responses to these artifacts at every level of society.

American . The somewhat arrogant mental appropriation of the entire Western Hemisphere by one of its component parts, the United States of America, whose citizens named certain virtues and values as characteristically "American."

Women . The casting of women into symbolic forms that wore the female mien of contemporary social types (the Charmer, the Outdoors Girl, the New. Woman) or of universal abstractions (Virtue, Civilization, Progress).

Idea . The application of the age-old philosophic/scientific concept of "type" by which individuals were made to conform to a series of platonizing classifications.

Ideals . The assignment of select values to womankind and to the nation, as well as the envisioning of a perfected nation as female and the categorization of true women as exemplary Americans.

Cultural History . The analysis of the diverse attitudes held toward women of the United States between 1876 and 1918 and toward the country's achievements defined according to certain so-called female attributes.

This parsing of the title of my book sets down the basic terms which structure its matter, its method, and its spread of time. Imaging American Women: Idea and Ideals in Cultural History is a book about the images of women -- both visual and verbal -- which came into being in the United States between the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 and the close of World War I. It is about the making of . . .

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